Serena Burton is a shy and disillusioned young English woman holidaying on the Mediterranean island of Malta finds romance with the hotel manager, Luigi Coletti. She also finds herself deeply involved in the life of an elderly writer, Louisa Weston.As Serena gradually discovers Louisa’s strange past she is drawn into a tangled web of hidden mysteries which are slowly uncovered, but at a high price…
A Tangled Web – Extract 1
“Not a very nice evening” said Mr. Coletti the hotel manager, when Serena approached the desk to leave her keys.
“I’m just going for a short walk before dinner,” she replied shyly.
“Better take an umbrella then.”
“I don’t think I’ll bother,” she laughed. “I won’t be too long anyway.”
She stepped outside and cautiously looked right and left before crossing the road onto the sea side promenade. Ominous dark clouds were gathering fast in the horizon and grayish blue waves splashed angrily against the white rocks, spraying her lips with salty droplets.
Serena was no stranger to this small Mediterranean island, but she had always come at the peak of hot and dry summers when the blinding brightness of the sky merged with the staggering azure blue of the sea. She never expected in a million years to find this sort of unremitting British drizzle soaking her hair through and through, nor an icy wind blowing on her face and making her eyes watery.
She looked in disbelief at the threatening sky and hoped the drizzle would not worsen. Forcibly she wiped her mouth with the back of her hand, and then walked briskly with her head down. She stopped abruptly out of breath and leaned against the silvery railings that ran all along in a wide bend. What on earth possessed her to come over here in the middle of this bleak and unusually cold winter? It was less than three weeks since she had that terrible row with Harry after catching him cheating with her best friend Susan. Seething with anger she broke off their engagement, but was so wretched and miserable that she felt like crawling in a dark corner or disappearing from the face of the earth.
A few days later, a stupid argument at work exploded into a major crisis. Full of hurt pride, she rebuffed any words of sympathy offered by her boss, and promptly resigned from her position as private secretary with a reputable industrial firm. She immediately moved out of her cozy little apartment in Putney and grabbed one of those last minute holiday deals to the island of Malta, where they offered travelers four weeks for the price of three. Perhaps the change of scenery would help her get over the emotional roller-coaster ride she was on. A relaxing getaway may lead to a fresh start. She had to try.
The promenade was almost deserted and the vast expanse of turbulent water was swelling under the blustery wind. Serena was so dejected and full of self-pity that her eyes filled with tears, but no matter where or when, the sea had always a soothing effect on her. Unlike a desert where its vastness and desolate emptiness exudes fear and wonder, the sea with its interchangeable moods of calm and rough had a mysticism of its own which for some unknown reason Serena was the most comfortable near it. And this kind of weather perfectly suited her present frame of mind.
Her tears were washed away by the rain and she tightly gripped the metal railing that ran the length of the promenade until her fingers hurt. She inhaled the fresh, revitalizing ozone bringing her back to life. Serena was about to turn back, when at a distance she glimpsed the shape of a man sitting on one of the rocks protruding into the sea at the base of the low cliffs beneath where she was standing. Against the darkening sky he looked more like a gray shadow, yet she could still notice a sort of naval cap pulled down below his forehead and a few shiny buttons glittering on a dark reefer coat.
Normally her first reaction would be to run in the opposite direction, but a compelling urge pushed her forward to that blurred figure, and her imagination started to run wild. Was he a seaman home on leave after a long exotic voyage? Or, was he simply a stranger who, like her, was taking a stroll, indifferent to the elements? The man seemed totally unaware of her presence and was focusing only on the foaming sea. The incandescent light of a pale moon came peeping through the thick clouds, and for an instant, two very dark eyes stared blankly back at Serena.
A gust of wind forced her to turn away and, when she looked back, the man seemed to have vanished. Had he gone down the other side of the rocks, or was her imagination playing tricks?
With a deep sigh, she tied her white woolen scarf firmly under her chin and resumed her brisk walk to the hotel just in time to change for dinner.
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